How An Emotional “Spring Cleaning” Can Improve Your Mental Health

How An Emotional “Spring Cleaning” Can Improve Your Mental Health

Even though spring officially begins on March 20th, there’s no reason to wait to do some mental and emotional spring cleaning.

The idea of spring cleaning has been around for thousands of years. Some research points to the Persian tradition of cleaning the entire house in preparation for Nowruz, the Persian New Year which falls on the first day of spring. Others suggest spring cleaning dates back to the ancient Jewish tradition of thoroughly cleansing the house to prepare for the springtime festival of Passover. However it originated, we can all agree that a good spring cleaning is cathartic and feels amazing.

You can get that same feeling by doing a mental spring cleaning. Just as cathartic as deep cleaning your house, a mental spring cleaning can give you a sense of pleasure as well as an emotional boost. Here are a few ways you can kickstart the new year.

Reevaluate your goals

Resetting your goals not only motivates you, it can also improve your mental health. Research shows that when you set achievable goals and reach them, the levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine in your brain increase.

Setting goals can improve your mental health by triggering new behaviors. They can motivate you and refocus your energies toward a happier, healthier lifestyle. Setting achievable goals bolsters a sense of self-mastery. You have to see it in order to change it.

Strengthen positive relationships

You’ve heard the expression, “negativity breeds negativity.” Now is the time to take a good look at your relationships and decide which ones are negative and which ones are uplifting. You don’t have to cut ties with the Negative Nellies. Instead, crowd in new, positive people in your life. When you surround yourself with positive people, you will not only feel better about yourself and the world around you, but you simply won’t have time to spend with negative influencers.

Throw away negative emotions

Just as unhealthy as negative relationships, negative emotions such as resentment, jealousy, bitterness, and anger will eat away at your psyche. Like that dress or suit you never wear because it no longer fits, these negative emotions serve no purpose. Get rid of them. Think about what caused these emotions, then picture a big garbage can and throw them away!

A study published in the journal Psychology Science asked participants to write down negative and positive things about their bodies on a piece of paper. The paper was then either ripped up and thrown away or kept. Those who physically threw away their negative words mentally discarded them as well. Now is the time to address all those negative emotions and get rid of them once and for all.

Do what you love

Marie Kondo reminds us to often ask ourselves, “Does this spark joy?” This doesn’t have to be limited to getting rid of clothes that don’t fit well. Think of things you love to do, or things you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. Take an art class. Learn a new language. Take up square dancing. Learn to garden. Diving into activities that bring you joy is a wonderful way to calm the mind and boost self-confidence.

Take time for yourself

Try living the Scandinavian way. Hygge (Hyyo-guh) is the Danish and Norwegian word for a way of living that emphasizes coziness and comfortable conviviality stressing sensations of wellness and contentment. This is the most hygge time of year. The concept of a hygge lifestyle emphasizes relaxation, indulgence, and gratitude. In fact, Danish doctors prescribe “tea and hygge” as a cure for the common cold.

One of the ways to hygge is to gather with a small group of friends, enjoy a meal, spend the evening in front of a fire relaxing. In this time of social distancing, it’s perfectly acceptable to hygge alone or with your immediate family. Take time to pamper yourself without any guilt. Light scented candles. Wear cozy socks. Indulge in your favorite foods. Go to bed early with a good book.

There are a number of mental health benefits to hygge including an increase in optimism, reduced stress and hopelessness, and a greater sense of mindfulness and self-worth. Especially effective for people who have experienced trauma, hygge calms the fight-or-flight-response of the nervous system.

Now is the perfect time for emotional spring cleaning. Like a good shake of the rug, now is the time to throw out bad habits and negative thoughts. Start this new season with a fresh new outlook, new goals, and a new sense of purpose. Clearing the emotional clutter is the first step toward living a happier, healthier life.

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